HR dissertation topics - any ideas???

(32 Posts)
granarybeck Sun 21-Oct-12 16:47:36


I am in the last year of doing my MSc in Human Resource Management and need to choose my dissertation topic. I am completely stumped as to what to choose.

I wondered if there were any HR people around here who had any ideas or could tell me what topic they did for their CIPD course.

I work as a generalist HR Advisor so cover pretty much all areas of HR. I would be so grateful for any ideas.


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granarybeck Sun 21-Oct-12 20:13:25

bumping for any evening HR people about

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StillSquiffy Mon 22-Oct-12 09:51:28

I did the 'flexibility backlash', focusing on women in senior positions. Bloody interesting it was too (discovered there is a bit of a psychological contract angle at play - firms will bend over backwards for employees they value, whilst trying to wriggle out of doing anything other than the legal minimum for those they think are playing the system).

For my Phd I am looking at the influence of the organisational culture on women's ambition as they climb up the career ladder, and why they lose ambition the higher up they get, whereas the men don't (at same time will be evidencing that this happens regardless of whether or not the woman has, or plans to have, children).

TBH, though, the best research topic is often the one that directly affects the organisation in which you work - you then get time and opinion from people who have a vested interest in your research, which adds a strong qualitative flavour - much more interesting than the quantitative stuff I saw other students doing.

flowery Mon 22-Oct-12 10:10:50

I did mine on employee turnover in the organisation I was working in at the time. Reasons, trends, statistics, employee and management opinions, that kind of thing. I used exit interview, interviewed managers, used turnover statistics available in the organisation and also information and statistics available about the general population, for comparison/industry trend reasons.

I agree with Squiffy that something that directly affects/is an issue within your organisation is much more interesting, for you and anyone reading it. It's also useful for your organisation as well.

kdiddy Mon 22-Oct-12 10:19:37

I did mine on how mergers and acquisitions affect organisational culture - what becomes dominant, how employees feel, impact on turnover, absence, retention etc.

Also agree it helps to pick something relevant to your work. I can't say I'd have chosen this topic above all others, however we'd just gone through a merger and therefore it was relatively straightforward to do my research and find live examples.

GodisaDJ Mon 22-Oct-12 10:19:38

I did the same as Flowery and focused on employee turnover. Lots of secondary literature and fairly easy to look at stats too. This was for my undergraduate dissertation but I was already working in HR and the company wanted this looking in to at the time.

For my CIPD, I wasn't working at the time and with having an interest in owning my own consultancy I looked at small companies and how HR is accessed, specifically linking Purcel's work (unlocking the black box) with SME's. It was very interesting to research and certainly plenty of literature to look at.

Definitely speak to your line manager to see if there is a project they want you to work on.

granarybeck Mon 22-Oct-12 12:40:18

Thanks everyone, they sound great topics. My background is in equality soI had thought about something around that, though I don't think it is a particular issue where I am so I couldnt think of an angle to look at.

I work for a local authority but also provide HR service for a charitable trust (previously part of the local authority). At the moment turnover is pretty low. A lot of my work is around ongoing organisational change/restructuring due to funding cuts so I had wondered about doing something around that but trying to focus it to a specific question. If also thought about looking at mentoring as progression is a bit of an issue in some areas of the organisation.

Thanks for your thoughts, it's so helpful to discuss with others that have already qualified.

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Lougle Mon 22-Oct-12 12:54:01

I'm not HR qualified in any way...but could you look at something like internal communication between managers/HR and how that could impact on equality?

I'm not sure how to phrase it, but I'm thinking along the lines of (this example is probably extreme and unlikely..I hope):

Manager x emails HR to say employee y is pregnant, and they don't want to promote because Maternity leave will be a pain to cover, so is there any way of exluding them from the process?

Now, obviously, HR advice would be that no, that's not possible.

But, would the very existence of such an email be able to be used by an employee to show motivation towards pregnancy related discrimination, should they not get a promotion in the future? I don't know.

If it did, is there any way of shaping communication between management and HR, either by pre-emptive communications from HR to managers, or protocols for raising queries, which would protect both employees and employers?

That could be completely irrelevant and rubbish, but it's something I've often wondered, because once a question's been asked, it's kind of irrelevant what the answer is, because the evidence is there that the manager even questioned it.

ceebeegeebies Mon 22-Oct-12 12:58:11

I did mine on Stress Management - I sent questionnaires out to staff to asssess how stressed they were and looked at what the organisation had in place and what else they could do to improve it (the organisation I work for is very stressful for the frontline staff - think emergency service - so it was relevant).

granarybeck Mon 22-Oct-12 13:26:45

Thanks Lougle, sounds a good idea. I had thought about communication/knowledge of managers around equality but most managers are fairly good on this at the moment!

That sounds really interesting Ceebeegeebies, I'm really interested in stress/stress related absence. It's a fairly small workforce and incidents of stress are fairly low so not sure I'd get the data/info I need.

I'm so jealous of all of you that have picked and done a topic. I'm fine about doing the research and writing it, it's just the choosing that's stressing me!!

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WorriedBetty Mon 22-Oct-12 13:35:20

Do one on the use of internet misuse as a. an area of poor expertise and misunderstanding by the courts b. Its use an an effective catch-all dismissal tool by unscrupulous employers (including the civil service) because an argument can be made without facts (because its 'so technical' a reasonable employer cannot be expected to know definitively what has happened on a computer c. How good internet policy, regular communication about expectations and bulletins about monitoring are effective ways to manage behaviour, rather than humiliate and blame individuals. d. explain how as the way browsers and the web operate, understanding genuine misuse v automatic behaviour of browsers and computers managing the net is beyond the capability (and therefore the usefulness) of british courts (see ACPO guidelines) and how musundertanding that makes most employers at risk of destroying evidence and letting real misusers get away with it whilst simultaneously overpersecuting people guilty of minor misuse.

This is the most unexplored and misunderstood area in employment and criminal law and a real gold mine for study.

WorriedBetty Mon 22-Oct-12 13:42:41

Also if you are going to do one on communication of equality - you should test its real implementation, not what managers say they are doing. classic example, the Athena Swan awards for science departments. You have to hit a number of requirements, which you can write a report for saying you are doing things - and then the award is granted! Simple! No-one checks to see if the stats are valid, or does focus interviews with staff who are used by employers as case studies, and no one checkes to see if statements eg about flexible working allowances, nursery leave, annual reviews etc are actually conducted and/or administered properly.

Eg it is enough to say 'all female staff have quarterly review of performance and any development needs are met by training eg (case study) x has had training in research management, development communication' etc.. but there is no requirement for there to be any evidence that any reviews have been done.

I have seen reports like this where the recruiting stats sound great, but if you examine what they really mean and compare with evidence of who was actually interviews (eg expenses claims, accommodation bookings, e-mails to candidates) you will see that these reports are made up.

Any good dissertation seeking to geninely address problems in employee management, needs to, in my view, address the fact that most tests of good managment involve asking a manager or senior member of staff whether they are excellent - they normally answer 'yes' in whatever area you quiz on. Testing the perspectives and opinions of layers below will give you a better picture.

(assuming you want to do empirical research!)

granarybeck Mon 22-Oct-12 13:43:41

That's an interesting idea Worried Betty. I'd wondered about Social Media but wasn't sure there'd be enough to it. We have also just completed a project around this and developed a policy. I'll have a further look into it.

I'd also thought of doing something around the psychological contract, perhaps looking at the impact of ongoing change/redundancies on it/how to restore trust. But am perhaps being too vague.

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morethanpotatoprints Mon 22-Oct-12 13:46:53

How about flexible hours, as this seems to be a biggie atm and your dissertation will be both reliable and recent.

WorriedBetty Mon 22-Oct-12 13:48:10

Ooh Ooh! I like looking at equlity as 'what message is given out generally across an organisation about gender roles' eg perhaps the organisation promotes females in professional and management roles, but when you look at all the support functions and office roles they are all women, all the porters and donkey work staff are working class men and disproportionately black and asian, cleaners are all working class or immigrant women etc etc.

I have worked in a place that says 'we are equal' look at how we recruit one more woman every three years than stats would expect to our professional career routes! but anyone working as a female technician gets held back because the gender image of 'hard technical' work roles is masculine and lower middle class/working class, or men in administration are only in management roles with 'drones' being exclusively women.

WorriedBetty Mon 22-Oct-12 13:54:56

What about the use of mediative/consulting techniques to understand different perspectives of the psychological contract for different layers, genders and ages of staff and comparing it to the management view as conveyed officially (policies and working practice) v theoretically (eg a manager saying 'training is a luxury, they should be grateful for that, we don't have to do it, its a day off, really.' when the policy/spiel says 'professional development is an essential part of our mission to develop a motivated workforce').

You would need to introduce the idea of the psych contract in doing this, but some organisations would like you to. Most people get the idea 'what do you expect from employer? 'Oh I expect if I am good at the job I will get promoted' compared with manager saying 'well they are expected to do the job well, so I don't see why they should get anything for just doing it well. That's not a promotion thing, to promote someone I need to see that they want to be promoted, by -kissing my ass-- taking on additional work and neglecting their donkey work or 'they only get promoted if they get the right qualification/doing current job for five years, not by being good'

granarybeck Mon 22-Oct-12 20:54:32

Thank you so much WorriedBetty, such good ideas.

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Leftwingharpie Tue 23-Oct-12 07:54:58

I like Lougle's communication idea - in a local authority you're well placed to look at the relationship between the members (particularly if your authority has a members appeal panel), management, HR and legal and when it works and when it doesn't - and where things go wrong. You could bring in the unions as well. Perhaps look at something like an equal pay restructuring exercise and related issues as a case study, or you could compare two very different services like waste collection and IT.

ginmakesitallok Tue 23-Oct-12 08:20:12

when I did mine (over 10 years ago now!) I did it on the use of appraisal systems across the organisation, how the were used and how they were percieved - both by managers and staff. Reading it back it was shit, but the topic was interesting

MrsApplepants Tue 23-Oct-12 08:31:08

I did mine 10 years ago. Was deeply boring but at the time useful about the use of zero hours contracts for call centre workers.

givemeaclue Tue 23-Oct-12 17:34:27

Key to this is tackling a genuine issue in your organization. If not your dissertation will be wishy washy .

Princessdivaaa Tue 23-Oct-12 17:50:37

I did mine about 15 years ago and looked at work life balance.
I think you need to choose something that is very topical the effect of social networking in workplaces sounds very relevant..

granarybeck Tue 23-Oct-12 19:12:41

Thanks everyone, really appreciate your ideas.

Givemeaclue - I think that's what I am worrying about; that it is actually relevant/focused so will sound meaningful and I won't get lost in it. I also agree, Princessdivaa, that it needs to be current. The trust which I spend most of my time working for doesn't currently have a social media policy so I guess I could look at impact/different views etc. I wasn't sure if I'd be be able to find enough academic research etc. I'll have a look.

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flowery Tue 23-Oct-12 19:41:53

Why don't you ask senior mgt of either the LA or the trust to find out whether there is anything they would find especially helpful for you to investigate?

givemeaclue Wed 24-Oct-12 18:13:26

Social media policy doesn't sound "meaty" enough for a masters dissertation and yes you want something with plenty of literature. You definitely need to speak to senior managers especially if they are sponsors ocourse. had an employee Xie who went Off and chose her own topic without consulting me. What she chose was of little value to the organization and Iwas a wasted pportunity for our business which was annoying considering we were supporting her study both in terms of time off and fees.

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